On Monday Channel Five’s The Gadget Show will review a Thuraya XT satellite phone provided by GTC in the deserts of Abu Dhabi. They will also review the Iridium 9555 to assess how satellite phones can be useful in remote locations. Tune in to get their reaction!
The Thuraya XT is Thuraya’s newest phone and boasts the longest battery life of any satellite phone on the market. It has also undergone testing to prove it’s title as the toughest satellite phone making it perfect for users who need to communicate in the harshest environments.
The Iridium 9555 is latest satellite phone in the Iridium range – the only satellite network to offer global coverage. This sat phone can provide a global connection to voice, fax, data and SMS services providing a variety of communication methods in remote areas and is water, shock and dust resistant.
See The Gadget Show’s verdict on Monday 1st February at 8pm, Channel Five.
When natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis strike, traditional fixed and wireless communications are often destroyed making satellite communications essential in the recovery of the affected area. Nowhere is this currently more apparent than in Haiti where satellite phones and data terminals are being used around the clock to aid the various aid agencies in their work as well as being used by journalists streaming news reports from the area.
According to Urgent Communications speaking with Iridium’s vice president of data services, Patrick Shay, Iridium voice traffic in Haiti has increased from 100 minutes per day to around 40,000 minutes per day since the earthquake hit on January 12. Likewise Inmarsat’s chief executive Andrew Sukawaty said in an interview with the BBC that they have seen a dramatic increase in traffic in Haiti since the earthquake and are adding channels and capacity in the area to ensure they can keep up with demand.
Global Telesat Communications have helped equip international aid agency Humanity First with the Wideye Sabre 1 satellite terminal for both voice and data communications using Inmarsat BGAN while they are in Haiti. To add to the medical team of 14 already in Haiti, a further team of 21 arrived on January 24 to support hospital teams and assist in refugee camps.
As with previous natural disasters, satellite communications are proving to be vital in the aftermath of the event and can hopefully enhance the work that aid agencies are carrying out to improve the situation in Haiti as soon as possible.
Although it is possible to make telephone contact through a landline or mobile phone from almost anywhere in the world, there are certain areas where a satellite phone is the only method of communication.
Unlike mobile phones which use localised phone masts to connect calls, a call made from a sat phone is sent through a satellite constellation until it reaches the nearest satellite gateway on the ground. It is then routed through traditional voice networks to reach its destination.
A call made from one satellite phone to another will be completely routed through satellite constellations to ensure that the call is not affected by any technical difficulties on the ground. This is why satellite phones are essential for communication during disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes where traditional lines of communication can be destroyed.
Satellite phones rely on a clear view of the satellite to make a call so it is important to ensure that the phones signal is not obstructed by trees, hills, mountains, buildings or other similar structures or geographical features in close proximity.
When choosing a satellite phone you may want to consider the type of satellites that your handset will use. Iridium and Globalstar use LEO (Low Earth Orbiting) satellites whereas Inmarsat and Thuraya use geosynchronous satellites which orbit at a much higher altitude. The higher a satellite orbits the more noticeable the latency or delay in call connection and transmission.
Choosing a satellite phone for the first time can be confusing and considering the costs involved you need to make sure you choose the right option for your requirements. The first thing to consider is where you will be using the phone. Iridium is the only satellite phone network to offer global coverage whereas Thuraya and Inmarsat’s SPS (satellite phone service) can offer cheaper equipment and airtime alternatives if you remain in their coverage areas. Visit our sat phone coverage maps page for details on coverage.
Once you have decided which network coverage is suitable, you need to decide whether to opt for a monthly contract or choose a pre-paid plan. Although monthly contracts have a 12 month minimum period they can offer cheaper costs per minute if you are predicting frequent usage. Pre-paid plans on the other hand are better for those carrying sat phones for emergency purposes only – you have the credit if you need to use it without the commitment to a 12 month contract. Watch out for validity of pre-paid SIM cards and minutes though – Iridium and Thuraya impose a maximum lifespan on both pre-paid SIM cards and vouchers which means that even if you don’t use the minutes they won’t last forever.
Once you have decided which network provides the best coverage for your requirements, the final decision is which satellite phone handset to choose. Iridium’s latest handset is the Iridium 9555 although handsets such as the Iridium 9505a are sometimes available secondhand. The Inmarsat satellite phone service is a relatively new service and so only one handset has been produced which is the IsatPhone. Thuraya offers three handsets which are the most similar to mobile phones in terms of features and size. Prices for all sat phones at Global Telesat range from £420 – £999.
We are pleased to offer our customers advice on which option is best for them. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 0207 969 2866 for help and advice.